Fri, September 20, 2013

Canadian synchro duo dread Olympic judges

By LOUIS BUTCHER, QMI Agency


Canada's Elise Marcotte and Canada's Marie-Pier Boudreau Gagnon compete in the duets free routine preliminary round during the synchronized swimming competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games Monday. (AFP)

LONDON - Is Tuesday’s final already decided?

That’s what the conclusion seemed to be Monday after Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon and Élise Marcotte’s flawless performance in the free duet event.

As they did Monday for the technical program, the Canadian synchronized swimming duet finished fourth without being able to improve their ranking, finishing behind the Russians, the Chinese and the Spanish.

The 14 judges, quite conservatively and unlike the audience, were not moved by the daring program which, as was allowed, features comedy. It bears repeating that they performed it flawlessly.

Their routine was perfect, according to Julie Sauvé, yet they will need to do even better. Pretty much impossible at that point.

“I hope the two girls will do as well Tuesday,” said the national synchronized swimming team’s head coach, eyes red with emotion. Red with despair, too.

Shining as much as Monday will not be enough.

It looks as if the judges decided to follow the same hierarchy as in the last few years.

Canada ranked fourth during the last main event of this sport, the Shanghai world championships, in July 2011. This rank will probably remain the same when the duet competition ends Tuesday.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” says Sauvé, “the ranking is decided by judges, no way around it. Yes, I am disappointed, because this was their best performance since we started training.”

This program has a very high difficulty rating and Boudreau-Gagnon and Marcotte have worked on it since January.

“Contrary to most teams,” Boudreau-Gagnon adds, “we very rarely repeat moves during our routine.”

“I guess,” she adds, “that judges will someday understand that we are a country with the most moves in the free routine, and with very little rest between them.

“If they acknowledge this difficulty rating, I am convinced our fate could improve during the finals.

“Artistically, we really reach for each note in the soundtrack, and our facial expressions, which are an important part of our routine, make the audience laugh.”

As expected, the two Russians, Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina, dominated the competition with 98.600 points Monday, .400 more than the day before. Their two-day total of 196.800 is well deserved.

The other rankings did not change either. China’s Xuechen Huang and Ou Liu (96.710) totalled 92.810, .610 better than before. Spain’s Ona Carbonell-Ballestero and Andrea Fuentes-Fache did .590 better than before (96.590) for a total of 192.590.

The Canadian duet also improved its score by .250, a smaller difference than that of the three leading countries, finishing with 94.750.

Boudreau and Gagnon gathered a total of 189.250 points in the first two days.

Out of 24 teams when the competition began, half were eliminated Monday. The 12 countries qualified for the final will perform the exact same (free) routine as Monday.

The points won on Sunday, during the technical program, count for half of Tuesday’s final results.

In other words, Monday’s event was a grand rehearsal for the ultimate showdown that will decide who goes home with medals.

Without admitting defeat too early, if the current trend continues, Canada has almost no chance to climb on the podium — unless the 14 judges (eight of whom are European) gather before Wednesday’s final and acknowledge that Canada managed to improve on its routine more than the other teams.

A U-turn can always happen, but no one expects it. Anyway, the Canadians cannot afford any mistake.